The Mets' off-season goes from too soon to too late

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Sandy Alderson. (SNY)
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If you blinked, you may have missed the moment general manager Sandy Alderson and the New York Mets moved from preaching patience for a developing marketplace to expressing resigned disappointment that all the good players are off the board.

The Mets' roster needs haven't changed. The bullpen and the outfield were thin last season, and are only thinner heading into 2013. But for most of the winter, Alderson has reassured Mets fans that help was on the way, and that the team was just biding its time.

Then, this:

“We continue to look, but I think, realistically at this point, there’s not a lot left on the shelf,” Alderson said on Sirius XM’s MLB Network Radio Sunday. “So at some point we have to realize that, well, perhaps the outfield is not the strength of our team. But at least going into spring training we may be looking at what we have and not being able to make an addition.”

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Here, by comparison, is what Alderson said back on January 2: 

"There's a long time between now and the beginning of February," Alderson said. "There's still some good players on the board."

Alderson, in that interview, talked about the Mets looking to acquire a starting pitcher, bullpen help and additional outfielders.

Nine days later, the dream of a better bullpen remained alive, with Alderson describing the abundance of remaining talent available for him to choose from.

“There’s still a lot out there and we’re looking," Alderson told the New York Post about the bullpen on January 11. 

By January 17, Alderson expressed continued discomfort about the quality of both the outfield and bullpen, but made it clear in an interview with Mike Francesa that improving both was quite possible, and necessary.

"Well I’d say right now it’s an incomplete," Alderson said then. "But there’s still time in the semester, to give an educational metaphor. We’ve been watching the market, we know what’s available, we’ve known what’s available. We reconvene and review periodically, meaning every couple of days. There are a number of things that we’re currently involved in pursuing. But we’re hopeful we’ll have some additions before spring training starts, and I expect that we will have some additions, but at this point to say we’ve been patient is probably an understatement but that’s what we’ve been."

Ten days later, despite having added only Shaun Marcum, a starting pitcher more like Chris Young than R.A. Dickey, and both the outfield and bullpen unaddressed, Alderson made it sound like his winter shopping was essentially complete. The patience he stressed all winter turns out to have been a rationale for doing almost nothing.

"We keep looking. But, at the same time, in terms of significant upgrades on the free-agent market, not a lot available, " Alderson said Sunday. "We continue to talk to clubs about possible trades, but at this stage most teams, as you know, are beginning to prep for the beginning of spring training and the trade activity is probably going to begin to diminish."

There's a scene in Duck Soup of a cabinet meeting conducted by Rufus T. Firefly, played by Groucho Marx, that goes like this:

RUFUS: And now, members of the cabinet, we'll take up old business.

CABINET MEMBER: I wish to discuss the tariff.

RUFUS: Sit down, that's new business. No old business? Very well, then we'll take up new business.

CABINET MEMBER: Now about that tariff-

RUFUS: Too late! That's old business already.

That is all.